Makassar is the biggest city in Sulawesi, situated on the southwest coast of the octopus-shaped island. Biggest is relative though, because while it might be a big port city, there really isn’t much going on. We flew in to recharge before taking on Tana Toraja and Bunaken.
While there isn’t much happening yet in Makassar, there is a growing number of enterprising young people who are making Makassar their own, opening the kind of places where they can hang out with their friends.
We got to know the son of the owner of the Hotel Agung, a clean, new and budget-friendly hotel near Fort Rotterdam. A graphic designer, Christian designed the interior and exterior of the hotel, which has a simple, modern look. We ended up using this hotel as our base and recovery place (after we got stomach troubles), staying there for a total of ten days.
Christian took us to a nearby cafe opened two years ago by a young local who loves coffee. It was the sort of place you might see in a hipster neighborhood in Brooklyn. For a little over a dollar, we had a tasty cappuccino and an Americano, with delicious homemade peanut cookies to nibble on (two for 3000 rupiah, or about 25 cents). It was busy when we got there in the late afternoon, and groups of young people sat chatting and smoking.
One of the baristas said he remembered seeing us at a barbershop we had gone to the week before. This was another small shop opened by a local who had studied in Australia. The interior was designed like the trendy barbershops you see all over the world nowadays, specializing in classic cuts sported by the likes of Brad Pitt, David Beckham, Michael Pitt and Justin Timberlake.
Jax’s Barbershop was probably the friendliest barbershop we’ve stopped into throughout the world. There wasn’t any attitude like the barbershops in Thailand which were a little disappointing in scissor skills, and we didn’t feel uncomfortable there even though the place was busy and I’m sure most of them — customers and barbers alike — had never had two girls go in for a cut.
We put N’s name down, and I waited for her to get her hair cut while sipping on a great Americano. The stylist was talented and meticulous, and the manager talked to me about what our plans were.
When I mentioned that we were planning on going to Tana Toraja, he beamed and said, “Walking Dead!” It’s amazing to me how even being halfway around the world, we can have the same pop culture references. Most hotels in SEA have HBO and other Western cable channels, which was surprising to us.
I was struck by stomach issues after eating at an Indian restaurant one afternoon, which delayed our trip to Tana Toraja. This ended up being a blessing in disguise because we were able to catch the highly-anticipated season premiere of none other than “The Walking Dead”, and two more after we got back from Tana Toraja.
Makassar is on the verge of changing into something different. There need to be significant improvements made to Makassar’s sanitation and cleanliness, but that’s the case with all up-and-coming cities in up-and-coming countries. The young people there know what the city needs to make it an interesting place, and this in turn will attract a new tourist crowd looking for a less touristy place to hang their hats for a while.